Address at the Seventh Conference of European Prosecutors-General

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to address you today.

I would like to thank you for gathering here in Moscow. Regular contacts between the prosecutors of the countries of Europe are important and necessary. Such Meetings help to strengthen the role of the law and of law and order in Europe. The theme of the conference – The Role of Prosecutors in Protecting the Rights of the Individual – is very timely and relevant indeed.  

We see this meeting as one of the key events of Russia’s presidency in the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. We place particular importance on the first session of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors that will take place as part of the conference.

It is symbolic that this forum is taking place a decade since Russia joined the Council of Europe. In 1996 our country made a conscious and logical choice that confirmed once more that Russia is an integral part of a democratic Europe and is working confidently towards perfecting the rule of law. 

Over this decade, Russia has worked closely with the Council of Europe to carry out large-scale legal, judicial and penitentiary reform. We have created the mechanisms and institutions that ensure the development of legislation and legal practice with regards to protecting citizens’ rights.

Russiatoday is actively modernising its economy, strengthening its federal system and developing local self-government. This is all a direct part of creating the conditions for protecting the rights of the individual in the objective of improving our institutions and the way our democracy is developing, and of course, ensuring the security of our citizens.

Terrorism remains a serious security threat. We are actively fighting this evil, including as part of multilateral organisations. We are convinced that only through joint efforts can we make the whole counter-terrorism system more effective, including by having states take part in the relevant international conventions.

In 2005, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was adopted. As you know, this convention was initiated by Russia and has already come into force. This document creates the conditions for the UN to complete work on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

The Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism is our common achievement. For the first time in international practice we now have a convention that views instigation to terrorist acts and the recruitment and training of terrorists as criminal acts. Russia played an active part in drafting this document and was the first to ratify it. Moreover, we have already prepared a package of amendments to Russian legislation.

I note that this convention is the only multilateral counter-terrorist agreement in Europe. It is important to ensure that it comes into force as soon as possible and becomes a working instrument.

Fighting terrorism effectively also depends to a great extent on all countries strictly observing their multilateral commitments.

We find it hard to explain, for example, why some countries refuse to extradite terrorism suspects and even go as far as to give them some kind of ‘political’ status. I am convinced that in such affairs there should be strict and complete compliance with the relevant international agreements. 

I would like to say a few words separately about international anti-crime cooperation. I remind you that Russia was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the UN Convention against Corruption. We are now completing the process of ratifying the Protocol on Amendments to the European Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and also the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, which was introduced to the Russian parliament for ratification on June 30. 

The number of universal and regional anti-crime agreements has increased considerably over recent years. But the Council of Europe’s potential in this area is still not being fully used and it is in our interests to expand and improve the legal instruments we have for countering new threats.  

Combating the criminal use of information and telecommunications systems is now coming to the fore, for example. Russia supports drawing up a global strategy to fight cyber-terrorism, including by establishing mechanisms to harmonise national criminal legislation. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to say a few words on Russia’s fulfilment of its international human rights commitments.

I say once again that we are open for honest and non-politicised dialogue on human rights issues. We want this dialogue to focus on finding solutions to concrete problems. There are plenty of problems both in the West and in the East. But it is unacceptable to us that human rights issues should be used as a means of exerting political pressure or pursuing opportunistic aims of any sort.

I add that we are very well informed about the situation in this area. Take, for example, the reports by the Human Rights Ombudsman. They reflect the real picture, set out the problems in clear and honest fashion and propose ways to resolve them.

Russiawill continue to strengthen its system of constitutional guarantees for human rights and freedoms. We are ready to cooperate even more closely with international human rights organisations. But applying a common approach to assessing the processes happening in all European countries, including in our own, of course, should have determining significance in this work.

We find it hard to understand, for example, why people close their eyes to human rights violations in some countries, why anti-fascist demonstrations in some countries are broken up, while processions of former Nazis are somehow ‘not noticed’.

It is every country’s direct duty to combat manifestations of Nazism. The relevant legal provisions are universal and are set out in the Council of Europe conventions. I hope that Europe’s prosecutors will be able to ensure that common and objective standards are observed in this respect.

In conclusion, the spectrum of issues regarding the rights of the person is quite broad today and is determined also by the emergence of new threats, which are not all entirely regulated by law yet. This all creates what has been called the great dilemma, when citizens’ inalienable rights must be guaranteed regardless of the rise of these new threats. This places particular responsibility on the prosecutors, the justice officials and specialists in related areas.

I fully agree in this respect with the colleagues who have already spoken and I would like to say that yesterday we discussed this subject in detail with the representatives of international human rights organisations. I fully agree with the way the issue has been put here.

I wish you success in your continued work on all of the complex issues before you and a successful continuation of your forum.

Thank you very much for your attention.